Jeremy Thorpe, the former Liberal Leader who was acquitted of murder in 1979, has died after suffering from Parkinson’s Disease for several years. The scandal that ruined his career came about when an acquittance of his, Norman Scott, claimed to have had a homosexual relationship with him between 1961 and 1963 when it was illegal.
Scott made the allegations at the height of Thorpe’s political career when he was the Liberal Party leader (1967 – 1976). In 1971 Scott’s claims had been so widely heard that the Liberal Party ordered an investigation into the allegations, which exonerated Thorpe.
The matter came to a head in 1976 when a team of hired gunmen attacked Norman Scott. Although Scott survived his dog was shot and died. Thorpe was immediately accused of the attempted murder, and was forced to admit he did consider exacting retribution on Scott for the allegations he made.
The trial was deliberately delayed until after the 1979 general election so Thorpe could defend his North Devon constituency. He lost the seat, but won the criminal case, in what was generally accepted to have been one of the most generous summaries by a Judge in British legal history.
Thorpe admitted he had the met the former model when he worked as a stable boy in the early 1960s. They two had become friends, but it was claimed the relationship did not extend into anything sexual.
Humiliated Thorpe retreated from public gaze but remained a regular on the London social scene and occasionally at Liberal Party (and later Liberal Democrat events). Although he was disgraced by the trial he is still credited with bringing the Liberal Party back to life. He was the architect the resurgence of the party that ultimately led the Lib Dems entering government in 2010.
He was born in Surrey on 29 April 1929, the descendant of Thomas Thorpe, Speaker of the House of Commons from 1452 to 1453 and both his grandfathers were Conservative MP. He was educated at Eton and Oxford, where he served as President of the Oxford Union in 1951. He was called to the bar in 1954, having previously worked in the fledgling television industry.
He was known as “Bomber Thorpe” because he was so opposed to the apartheid system in Rhodesia that he publicly called for Britain to bomb the country.
As a result of his disgrace he was never credited for the work he did in politics aside from receiving a standing ovation at the Liberal Democrat party conference in 1997. He is survived by his son Rupert, his first wife died in 1970 and his second in 2014. His daughter died in a car accident in 1970.